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Food and beverage stories

Taste of the Tarkine

Edition 196_HillFarm

Artisan food crafted on the edge of the Tarkine wilderness is in big demand the world over, and further evidence that the north-west really is ‘Tasmania’s Pantry’.

The Tarkine is the greatest expanse of temperate rainforest in Australia, full of ancient trees and boasting the world’s purest air and water. But it is also inspiring boutique producers – like the award-winning Hill Farm Preserves and Blue Hills Honey.

Karin Luttmer has an amazing office.

Everyday she creates her beautiful condiments, oils, and preserves on a farm overlooking the Tarkine.  

Her company, Hill Farm Preserves, at Sisters Creek, produces premium artisan products: pure and free from preserves; bottled and labelled by hand; created in small batches.

Where possible they are made with the finest Tasmanian ingredients – oils infused with Wild Mountain Pepperberry, wasabi mustards, whisky jams, crab apple jelly and apricot relish.

These are products that have been sold in Japan for the last 15 years, and more recently in South Korea.

“Just this morning we had a tasting with a group from South Korea who are interested in selling and using our products in high-end resorts,” Ms Luttmer said.

“As well as our beautiful creations, the thing they really loved is the story-telling around our place – the beautiful location with rolling green hills sitting right next door to the Tarkine.

“Everything we produce is the essence of where we are.”

One of their most celebrated products is a GM-free canola oil that recently won a Tasmanian Delicious produce award for the second year in a row, and is used by chefs in acclaimed restaurants such as Franklin in Hobart and the Agrarian Kitchen in the Derwent Valley.

The north-west with its thick, rich, red volcanic soil also plays a starring role.

“Everything the home chef, or professional chef, could ever need – from A to Z – is grown right here.”

“The north-west really is Tasmania’s pantry,” Ms Luttmer explains.

Meantime, ten minutes down the road – and tucked away at Mawbanna – you will find Blue Hills Honey.

It was set-up by the Charles family as a hobby farm in 1955 and has grown into one of Tasmania’s leading honey producers and exporters. Apiarist, Robbie Charles and his wife Nicola now run the business.

“The Charles family has been tending bees and making honey for three generations,” Nicola Charles said.

“Everyone loves our story; the thought of a product coming from such a beautiful part of the world and crafted by a family of artisans for more than 60 years really grabs attention.”

“There is a lot of tradition that goes into our honey which is all 100 per cent natural.”

That tradition includes sourcing Blue Hills premium honey from the Tarkine.

Hives are placed deep in the wilderness for extended periods, allowing bees to collect nectar from a range of rainforest plants – including the rare leatherwood tree (Eucryphia lucida) which is found only in Tasmania.

Although a variety of honeys are produced at Blue Hills, it is their leatherwood – ‘The King of Honeys’ – that has brought greatest acclaim, and a very prestigious international award.

In 2016 Blue Hills Leatherwood was named as one of the world’s top five food products at the Monde fine food awards in Budapest Hungary, eliciting rave reviews.

“This is the taste of the wilderness, it’s as close as you can get to nature with a honey. It’s a very bold honey, with that familiar aroma and some exotic spices,” Ms Charles explains.

These days the honey business is booming.

Blue Hills has 2000 hives that produce 100 tonnes of honey every day, with 70 per cent of that exported overseas. Hong Kong is their biggest market.

They are also moving into tourism, with a one-million-dollar expansion that includes a visitor centre and cafe. 

Showcasing not only Blue Hills artisan honey but also this unique part of the world on the edge of the Tarkine.

“The north-west really is a special place. It is nature at its best. It is produce at its best,” Ms Charles enthuses.

Image courtesy of Hill Farm Preserves

11 July 2018, Edition 196

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